For a few innings on Aug. 6, it looked as if a power surge from the Tacoma Rainiers was going to continue their recent string of solid performances. Then, in the course of five batters in the top of the fifth, New Orleans slugged three homers themselves, leading the Zephyrs to a 9-4 win at Cheney Stadium.
Rainiers’ starter Steve Garrison surrendered a run-scoring single to Jeff Dominguez and a sacrifice fly to Chase Lambin to put New Orleans ahead 2-0 in the second inning. But Alex Liddi followed with a bomb over the left field wall off Zephyrs starter Omar Poveda in the bottom of the inning, and Luis Rodriguez drilled a two-run homer over the right field wall in the third to give Tacoma a 3-2 lead.
“Luis is probably, for the whole year, putting the best at-bats up for us night-in and night-out,” said Rainiers’ manager Daren Brown. “He swung the bat well tonight. Homers with him are not something you’d expect, but he does square the baseball up and those things can happen when he does that.”
The Zephyrs then tied it in the top of the fourth, but Vinnie Catricala regained the lead for Tacoma with a solo homer that landed just over the left field wall in the bottom of the inning.
That is when disaster struck for Garrison, who allowed a leadoff homer to Chris Coghlan in the fifth and a two-run shot to Luke Montz two batters later. Chris Aguila soon followed with a bomb to left, prompting Brown to remove Garrison.
“The runs he gave up early were pitches up in the zone, but they were base hits,” Brown said. “In the fifth inning they turned into homers. It happened pretty quick…you go into that inning with a 4-3 lead, and nine pitches into it you’re down 7-4.”
The Rainiers’ bats then went cold against Poveda and relievers Rob Delaney and Jon Link, as Tacoma managed just one hit and four walks in the final five innings. Garrison took the loss in allowing seven runs on 11 hits in four and one-third innings, with two walks and no strikeouts.
Despite the loss, the Rainiers had still won six of their last eight games as of July 7, although they remained in last place by a large margin with a 50-67 record.
“We’ve pitched better and we’ve also gotten some big hits, and that’s some things that were lacking early in the year,” said Brown, noting the recent outings of Hector Noesi and Erasmo Ramirez on the mound.
He added that the turnarounds of the younger hitters has been key to the recent success and will be needed to salvage a successful end to the season. “Alex (Liddi) has been swinging the bat pretty good now for about 10 days or two weeks, he’s been coming around a bit. Catricala, it was good to see (the homer). He’s had a rough year early, and he’s starting to come around as well. We’re talking about two 23-year-olds – obviously young guys – and I think it’s important for them to have a good month of August.”